The government's 'confronting' domestic violence ad
The government ad targets sexist attitudes of young people to prevent them turning into violence.PT1M3S 620 349
Men are killers. In the vast vast majority of cases of family violence, it is men who are the killers and women who are the victims.
What follows is a brief explanation of the government's continuing contempt of those who are victims in the context of brand new, frightening research from Monash University. These two stories run parallel, documenting the track of family violence in this country.
We apparently have a climate in this country of not accepting domestic violence. Oh look! We have advertisements telling little boys not to push girls over the in the playground. Oh look! That's $30 million.
. Photo: Luca Pierro/Stocksy
Despite this lip service, the endemic nature of family violence will continue to flourish because the Federal government is refusing to fund the most useful legal protection women have, Australia's extraordinary community legal centres.
Lawyers protect women. They use the courts to stop women from being just another womanslaughter statistic.
But the federal government is pig-headedly refusing to overturn cuts of 30 per cent to the CLCs – and stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the advice of the Productivity Commission in its 2014 report that made it plain the sector needed an annual injection of $200 million. Attorney-General George Brandis even sent out a press release rejoicing in the current state of funding, pretending that the 30 per cent cuts aren't going ahead.
In new research released this week, a team from Monash University and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria shows the astonishing prevalence of male violence in family homicides. What's even more terrifying is that in the tiny number of cases where men are homicide victims at the hands of women, around half of those same men subjected their killers to years – years – of violent, physical abuse.
So, this is the evidence. The next time some person tells you that men are the victims of family violence too, remind them men are killers.
But what's more concerning about the research is this – men get away with so much when it comes to defending themselves in court. They, in concert with their lawyers, present themselves as good guys who just went nuts. Lost it on that one occasion. Were so mentally fragile that the possibility of separation caused them to go into a violent rage and murder.
It's the fault of women who were not biddable enough, not loyal enough, not obedient. And the progressive reforms in Victoria in 2005 have only done so much to change the story.
Men get away with manslaughter, time and time again.
Women, apparently, make men lose their minds.
Bronwyn Naylor, an associate professor of law at Monash who specialises in gendered violence, led the report. She says the male narrative is this: "I never intended to kill, I never even intended to cause harm. I just lost it. She was leaving." It's all her fault.
From that victim blaming emerges another, even more tragic result. Juries are much more likely to convict those killers of a lesser offence. Woman-slaughter, not murder. This too diminishes the value of female life.
Those verdicts symbolise injustice. They clearly illustrate the way in which society still considers women to be complicit in family violence, that they are sirens who make men weak. Naylor says she is surprised the narrative continues.
"In many ways you think men would be embarrassed because it presents them as having no agency . . . they are presented as saying 'it was just my reaction to terrible behaviour'."
Of the 51 cases of men killing women detailed in the Monash report, nearly 60 per cent of the men had histories of family violence. Yes, 36 of those men were convicted of murder but 13 were convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter. And the court allowed commentary which painted a picture of women causing – even inviting – fatal violence. The men did it because they were provoked – even though in Victoria at least, provocation is no longer a defence.
Every state has different laws governing family violence but none yet protects women as they should be protected. Naylor says this Victorian government should continue to monitor how the 2005 reforms are working and, in particular, should consider reinstating the defensive homicide defence, introduced as part of the 2005 reforms but repealed in 2014. This was an important protection for women, who are potentially disadvantaged without it.
The criminologist who worked on the report, Danielle Tyson, has clear views about one of the failings of courts when it comes to dealing with family violence – and that's a lack of understanding about the extent and range of what that violence constitutes.
As the report says: "The focus was on acts of physical violence, while controlling behaviour, threats to harm or threats to suicide, obsessive jealousy and other forms of violence were rarely perceived to be serious, despite these being recognised as key family violence risk indicators."
Lawyers, judges, courts, must catch up with the entirety of family violence. It is not just about the physical damage but about years of control, of verbal abuse, of the monitoring and surveillance of money, of isolation, of exclusion, of division. Some of this is hard to document, as Tyson points out. How we get the legal system to adapt is our next challenge.
But cutting the one part of the legal system with genuine expertise is not the answer.